Starting July 29, the Town of Woodbridge will require all dog owners to keep their canine companions on a leash whenever they are on public land, including the town’s parks and hiking trails. Exempt are only guide dogs for the blind.
The leash requirement also extends to streets, school grounds and recreational areas, and to any private property that is not the dog owner’s property. Even before enactment of this broadened leash requirement, signs at many park entrances required dog owners to leash their pets.
The Board of Selectmen, after a brief hearing with no public input on June 14, unanimously approved this addition to the town ordinance, with insertion of the leash requirement. First Selectman Ellen Scalettar said the ordinance was recommended by the Ordinance Committee who acted based on the suggestion of the Animal Control Officer and the Parks Department in an effort to make the public spaces safer for animals and people.
The leash, as defined in the ordinance, “means any humane device constructed of rope, cord, leather strap, chain or other sturdy material not exceeding eight feet in length, of sufficient strength to control the animal to which it is attached.” In the past the ordinance only addressed the owner’s responsibility to immediately pick up any dog litter. That part of the ordinance was left unchanged. Also unchanged are the fines set for violators with $25 for the first offense; $50 for the second and $100 each subsequent offense.
State statute does not mandate that dogs be on a leash at all times. Instead, the dog owner is held responsible to prevent any dog from roaming on another person’s land or on a public street, including sidewalks. According to the state, the animal must be “under his [owner’s] control” at all times. Violating the state roaming law is an infraction punishable by a fine of $92. An exception to this rule is state parks, where the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection requires that owners keep their dogs leashed.
State statute specifically allows local governments to create their own leash ordinances. The local ordinance passed unanimously.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent